March 17, 2008

From Skid Row to the Suburbs

I admit it was an impetuous and poorly-judged decision. I had just arrived in Anchorage for my annual teaching assignment at the University of Alaska and the temperature was twenty-plus degrees below freezing. I spent the first night at a sleazy motel not far from the airport. The walls were thin, the carpets reeked of […]

January 19, 2008

Arctic motoring – 19/01/08

The temperature hovered around minus twenty, and the roads were layered in ice. But even at two in the morning the car rental agent in the bowels of Ted Stevens international airport at Anchorage managed a pearly smile. Perhaps it had something to do with the financial knife he was holding at my neck. “Oh, […]

January 13, 2008

Topsy-Turvy Mishaps – 13/01/08

It came out of the blue and just as we were finally beginning to enjoy the drive. Without warning the rear wheels lost traction and shot violently to one side. Then our large, heavily-laden pick-up truck slewed onto the opposite side of the road. I counter-steered as gently as I could, trying to keep the […]

December 16, 2007

Ice patches and Inverters – Dec 07

It’s been a week of close calls and minor disasters here in our beautiful little corner of the universe. Just as we thought the learning curve was beginning to flatten out. Since moving to the ranch nearly two incident-strewn years ago, we have struggled through floods, fought off erosion, cowered under the debris of forest […]

November 4, 2007

Rednecks, hippies and batty biologists – 4/11/07

In the annals of our small and humble valley, it was a notable gathering of scientific minds. An accomplished skink man, a bat expert, a Chinese medicine practitioner and a clutch of bear biologists all gathered around our dinner table last weekend to swap ursine opinions. We had sent out an invitation to the eminences […]

September 30, 2007

Wildlife-Viewing Journal – 30/09/07

So our second grizzly bear season since moving to the ranch is well underway. So far all our guests – and this year we have been pretty much full – have left after seeing at least a few grizzlies. Some have seen many. To keep our guests and friends up-to-date with the latest we have […]

August 3, 2007

Bucking Broncos and Wounded Pride – 03/08/07

Buying Henry the Horse was one of the first things I did when I got to British Columbia. I simply couldn’t be the owner of a ranch and a self-respecting frontiersman without my very own steed. This most noble of acquisitions was accelerated by my impatience after many years of horselessness as I hopped from […]

June 23, 2007

A wedding by the river – 23/06/07

It was, in the end, a notable event on the social calendar of our small, quiet valley. Journalists and cowboys, farmers and photographers, crooners, lawyers, professors, biologists, bikers, loggers, carpenters and former soldiers all came together earlier this month as Kristin and I got married at the end of our garden. For those of you […]

April 23, 2007

Glaciers and Gravel Strips 23/04/07

It’s been something of an obsession of mine ever since we first arrived at the ranch. Even before we moved in I was already pacing out the yard to see where I might put a small plane down. Every angle seemed to come with a different set of problems: one took me too close to […]

March 8, 2007

More Moosery 08/03/07

Living as we do deep in the Canadian wilderness, we thought that – at least when it came to local wildlife – we had seen it all. We found a deer in our garage one morning, a black bear staring at us from just outside the kitchen window and had a grizzly mum with three […]

December 8, 2006

Snow ploughs and Santa Claus – 8/12/06

It looked wonderful in the catalogue. Yellow, gleaming, metallic – and all for a very reasonable thousand dollars or so. With funds dwindling but the first snowfall already upon us we decided to bite the bullet. Perhaps nothing defines a Canadian homesteader quite as well as the means he uses to get rid of his […]

November 24, 2006

The Kremlin and its critics – 24/11/06

For those of you who read our blog for updates on the ranch and a whiff of wilderness escape, my apologies. The recent shooting of Anna Politkovskaya, a fierce Putin critic in Russia, has left me musing on the future of that great country and a small incident shortly before I left Russia last year. […]

October 17, 2006

Chainsaws and Capuccinos – 17/10/06

I stood there facing our latest purchase. A logging truck load of timber. That’s maybe 20 chords of wood. A huge amount. Even with our three greedy woodstoves it might last us two or three years. The logs lay silently, almost solemnly, on a forgotten edge of our property, hard on the mountainside. Now all […]

July 22, 2006

Teutons and Moosery – 22/07/06

It was an unexpected start to our first season. Last month, returning to the ranch one sunny afternoon, Kristin came upon three over-sized red-headed German tourists spread out comfortably in our garden around one of our refurbished picnic tables. They had unloaded their lunch onto its pristine olive-green surface – I know it was pristine […]

June 30, 2006

Shotguns and Stallions – June 06

I really never thought it would come to this. It all began back in the distant snowbound days of March when one of our closest neighbours – wearing what look like a goat-skin – turned up on our doorstep. “Dick shot my horse,” he declared by way of introduction. After some plodding around the subject […]

April 30, 2006

Between the Rockies and a hard place – April 06

It had been a truly awful week. As I was driving through northern Bosnia on a routine assignment several days before the voice of my brother came through on a crackly satellite phone. He told me how RUF rebels had overrun the camps he was working at in the Sierra Leone jungle and he was […]

March 31, 2006

War Zones to the Wilderness – Mar 06

It was an intimidating sight. A wall of snow on both sides with one tiny path down the middle – part ice, part mud. We squeezed our new pick-up truck with it’s trailer and the little Golf diesel Kristin was driving through the gap and inched our way towards the front door. This was our […]

March 20, 2006

Avalanches and Amateurs – 20/03/06

It had to happen – it was all going far too smoothly. There we were smugly driving home through the Rocky mountains last night congratulating each other on the choice we had made with our lives and waffling on about the beauty of our new surroundings. We got to Revelstoke on the Trans Canada turned […]

March 14, 2006

From War Zones to the Wilderness – 14/03/06

It was an intimidating sight. A wall of snow on both sides with one tiny path down the middle – part ice, part mud. We squeezed our new pick-up truck with it’s trailer and the little Golf diesel Kristin was driving through the gap and inched our way towards the front door. This was our […]